Pa. House passes budget; changes expected in Senate

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a $29.1 billion spending plan Wednesday that includes revenue from the sale of the state’s liquor stores, but even some supporters of liquor privatization doubt that will happen.

Selling the stores would generate $380 million.

“This is a sensible budget that does not ask the taxpayers for any new tax revenue. It simply works with what we have,” said Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-199th).

State Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30th) said while he supports liquor privatization, there’s not enough support in the Senate as a whole.

“I would support that, but we don’t have the votes for that. So, that’s not going to happen,” he said.

Eichelberger said he believes the Senate’s version of the budget will include a severance tax on drillers, though he did not know that tax rate would be.

The House budget passed by a vote of 110-93, with Democrats saying the liquor plan is unrealistic and calling for money for education. The budget increases state education spending, but at a level lower than Gov. tom Corbett (R) called for earlier this year.

“I think there’s a hope in the Senate that we can make investments in public education and other programs, but it’s going to take more revenue,” said Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-15th).

FOX43 spoke with Gov. Corbett Wednesday. He did not rule out the possibility of a severance tax but reiterated his call for reform of the state’s pension system first.

“You know what I’ve said. I’ve said we’ve got to see some movement on cost drivers before we talk revenue,” said Corbett.  “I’m very optimistic that they are working on it, and that we’re going to see something done on time at this point.”

Senators said they expect to work through Friday and will return to the Capitol Sunday. The new fiscal year starts Tuesday.